A woman who was desperate to prolong her life after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour went to controversial neurosurgeon Charlie Teo because she “thought he was God,” a hearing has heard.
But despite her high hopes, her husband has claimed Dr Teo misled them when he said he could “buy them time” by performing a surgery that other doctors would not do.
The man told a Health Care Complaints Commission hearing when the woman never regained consciousness, Dr Teo admitted in a phone call to the patient’s daughter to “acting negligently” by “maybe taking too much brain out”.
But before the surgery, the man allegedly asked Dr Teo: “Could I hold her in a few days – would she be able to fly home?” and he responded: “She can just wear a hat, no one would know any difference”.
“He never once turned to my wife and said, ‘You won’t come out of this,’” he told the hearing — a claim that was strongly refuted by Dr Teo’s defence lawyer.
Despite his wife having “looked up YouTube videos of Teo” and even telling him she “thought he was God”, the man said they would not have gone ahead of the surgery if they knew there was even a “50/50 chance” she would not come out of it alive.
Referring to the pre-surgery consultation, the man told the hearing Dr Teo said the patient would be paralysed down the left side and have some memory loss, but other than that “we didn’t ask about any risks and we weren’t told any”.
The man also said Dr Teo told him and his wife she “would be f***ing dead by Friday,” being three days later, if they didn’t agree to the surgery.
In earlier evidence, he said other doctors had not given his wife a specific timeline of how long she had to live. At the time they saw Dr Teo, she was wheelchair-bound and already had limited movement in the left side.
Feeling the urgency, they gave Dr Teo the green light.
But when the woman did not wake up, the man told the hearing Dr Teo bluntly said, “When we cut your wife open, the tumour popped out.”
During cross examination of the man, Dr Teo’s lawyer Matthew Hutchings suggested his “memory of the contents of the consultation” with Dr Teo was “imperfect”.
He submitted the man had given varying recollections of what was said during the consultation, including differing versions of the sentence “she would be f***ing dead by Thursday”, sometimes saying “Friday” or changing the order of words.
“Do you think your emotional state at the time affected your recollection of events?” Mr Hutchings asked.
“No,” the man responded.
Mr Hutchings also noted the man’s earlier evidence in which he said: “nothing was going to change [his wife’s mind]” about trying surgery before they had even met Dr Teo.
During that evidence, the man had told the hearing, “She was looking at a little bit of extra life and wanted to take it.”
Mr Hutchings referred to a phone call with Dr Teo and the patient’s daughter after the operation failed, where the daughter allegedly said her mother was aware of the risks and wanted to go ahead with the operation regardless of the outcome.
But the man told the hearing he only heard the part of the phone call where Dr Teo said he “acted negligently” by “maybe cutting too much brain out”.
Mr Hutchings rejected Dr Teo ever said he acted negligently.
He submitted that Dr Teo did in fact explain all of the risks associated, and that there was no guarantee it would work.
In his last question to the man, who became emotional throughout the evidence, Mr Hutchings asked, “Is it not the case you are desperately sad at the loss of your wife and that you blame Professor Teo that your wife has gone?”
The man responded, “Yes I do.”
The five-day hearing is investigating several complaints of unsatisfactory conduct on behalf of Dr Teo, though the exact number has not been put before the commission.
The NSW Medical Council has barred the 65-year-old from operating in Australia since August 2021 without written approval, following an investigation into alleged unsatisfactory workplace conduct.
The current hearing could result in further conditions imposed on his registration.
The first day heard from a witness who said when her mother did not wake up from surgery, Dr Teo told another nurse to “put her in a bloody chair — tie her up if you need to”.
It also heard from a man whose wife fell into coma after surgery in which he alleged Dr Teo cut too far and “into the wrong side” of the brain.
Dr Teo has come under fire for operating on patients with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) — an inoperable type of tumour found on the brain stem — with one leading American surgeon describing any attempt to operate as “incomprehensible”.
Story Credit: news.com.au